Sunday, October 09, 2011

Real farmstead cheesemaking

I've milking goats since 1979 and I've had my own flock since 1982. When you have milk critters, you often have those times when you open the fridge and find it full of milk. That is when you make cheese. You can do some planning and scheduling, but the full milk fridge will often crop up at a time when you really have a zillion other things to do. 

As a farmer, I cannot tolerate wasting food. Right now, I don't raise bottle calves, I only have half a dozen milk customers (it's legal to sell goat's milk directly from the farm here in Arkansas, a big part of why we moved here) and I don't raise pigs, so , when the fridge is full, I make cheese.

A spatter screen makes a great cheese pot lid
 in a busy farm household.
There are quick and easy cheeses that freeze well for winter when the does are dry. There are  cheeses to make specifically for a potluck or a recipe I want to try and then there are times when I just want to make something a little more. Today, I wanted to make mozzarella.
It's not a terribly hard cheese. but you do have to pay a bit of attention to it to get it to work out. I alway s make my cheese in a double boiler arrangement of big canning pot and big stainless steel bucket. This has many purposes, it keeps the milk from scorching and makes it easier to change temperatures gently.

Smart phones have a timer app so that you can work at other projects
 and  set an alert for when you have to check the cheese next.
Set up your pots and warm your milk to no more than 80-degrees. Mix up either thermophilic cheese culture or good quality yogurt with about 1/2 cup of cold milk and add it to the pot of warm milk. Stir gently with an up and down motion. Cover and let incubate for 30 minutes (or so). If you carry a smart phone, like so many of us do now-a-days, down load a timer app. Each time you are supposed to do something with the cheese in 15, 20, 30 minutes, etc. you can set your phone and then go get your other work done, like fixing the front fence that the sheep decided was optional.
Fixing fence is a higher priority than a pot of cheese on the stove.

Back at the cheese, mix 1 teaspoon full of liquid rennet with 1/2 cold milk. In another cup, mix 2 tsp citric acid with 1/2 cold water. Stir the rennet into the milk and then the citirc acid. the milk may flake a bit, but don't worry about it. Let it set 15 minute and check to see if the curd is set. If not let rest another 15 minutes. Now is a good time to work on the weaving in your shop, or go plant blueberries. That was what was on the to-do list for today.

Planting the blueberry hedge is the thing
 that was on the schedule for today. It's been so dry
 I'm having to use a pickax to dig in the
 normally soft dirt on the east side of the house.
I got two types of locally grown blueberry plants for a hedge on the east side of the house. When I sold two of my very favorite angora goats, who had decided that they really didn't want to stay in the fence, I felt like I needed something to assuage the pain from the hard decision. I'm sure Evie and Bramble have a great new home, and I now have a baby blue berry hedge. 

My blueberry guy said to plant them in peat moss and mulch them with pine needles, so it made senxe to me to plant them under the pine tree. I hope it works. I did spend most of the day, around cheese making and fence mending, regular chores and laundry, planting blueberries.

Oh yeah, back to the cheese.

When the curd breaks over your finger, or has sunk in a lump to the bottom of the kettle, cut it into one inch squares. Stir gently and begin to raise the heat very slowly, no more than 1 degree/minute to 113 degrees. Stir often to keep the curd from matting in an up and down motion. this process works well with weaving in the studio near the kitchen.
Heat the milk to 113 degrees. A digital thermometer is wonderful!

When it gets up to temp, remove the kettle from the fire and let set for a bit. (Go plant another blueberry or two.) Stir well before you leave.

 Learn to use tools. Just because you can pour a 3-gallon steaming
cheese pot, doesn't mean that it's a good idea.
Wash your hands when you return. Set up a large colander over another food grade bucket with a tea towel or other butter muslin type cloth. Ladle the curds into the cloth. The whey will drain off of the curds. Save this to make bread or soup. If you want to add some salt now, it is good to stir it into the curds before you tie them up to drain.

Hang the cheese to drain. We've always put a
 rack of some sort over the sink for this reason.
My kids grew up thinking that everybody had
 a sign that said "Beware the Cheese" on their kitchen sink.
Tie the corners of the cloth together and hang the cheese to drain. Now is a good time to go plant the rest of the blueberry plants.Before you head out though, make sure you drink a big glass of water.

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